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'Discover Islamic Culture' in Activities, Film & Food at Murray State, Tomorrow

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Matt Markgraf, WKMS
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Murray State University has a Muslim student population of roughly 360 students, along with their families, which is relatively large for the small college town. Dr. Ihsan Alkhatib, who teaches in the Political Science Department, says he hadn't encountered many Saudis in his life until he came to western Kentucky. Tomorrow, students, faculty and community members are invited to meet and interact with people from different parts of the world in a day-long Islamic Culture Experience in the Curris Center Dance Lounge, hosted by the Murray State's Muslim Student Organization, including documentary films, cultural activities and food. Dr. Alkhatib and his wife Maysoon Suleiman-Khatib, an adjunct professor in the Organizational Communications department, join Kate Lochte on Sounds Good with the details.

Dr. Alkhatib says the key thing to remember is that Islam is a religion just like Buddhism and Christianity. People can bring whatever they want into it. You have Muslim people doing bad things and good things, but most Muslims are law-abiding and good people, he says. The challenge is that a lot of people make themselves believe that the bad acts of a few people represent the faiths of a billion people. He invites people to come to the Islamic Culture Experience tomorrow to overcome some misconceptions about the Islamic culture.

When living in Michigan, Maysoon Suleiman-Khatib conducted a coaching exercise with the Department of Civil Rights on the proper protocol in the workplace. She says health providers who have personal contact with female and male Muslims especially benefit from understanding the culture. For instance, a male social worker visits the home of a Muslim woman and wishes to enter the house. What he needs to understand is that this is not allowed if there is no one else home. She asks that reasonable accommodations be made in an effort to understand the culture, such as calling ahead of time. Another example is a female Muslim patient enters the hospital and is asked to remove her hijab. In the Muslim culture, there is an exception to the rule of wearing the head covering when it comes to health. Many women will take it off, but this may depend on how many men will enter the room.

It's not enough to be tolerant, she says, "Tolerance is inherently arrogant. We want to be pluralistic. We're not saying 'become Muslim or let us become Christian or Jewish or whatever religion it is' but we want to be able to say 'my religion is my religion and your religion is your religion and we respect everyone equally.'"

Suleiman-Khatib recounts when she came to Murray from Michigan she had prepared herself to come to a region where there were no Arabs or Muslims. She thought about wearing a hijab and a long dress to the grocery store with a hidden camera to film reactions. But she was surprised upon arriving, while shopping at Walmart, she saw a Saudi student wearing the full niqab (a face covering where you only see someone's eyes) approached by a woman who talked to her as acquaintances. Her thought was, "how does she know who that is?" It was very ignorant on her part, she admits. And after living in Murray has learned that many southern people are kind and welcoming and appreciated the mutual respect between the women.

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